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NRS328 Research Skills Guide: Using MeSH terms in MEDLINE

Using MeSH Headings in MEDLINE

MEDLINE is available to CSU users in a number of platforms. The tips here refer to the Ovid version of MEDLINE.

Using MeSH terms in Ovid MEDLINE is very similar to using CINAHL Headings in CINAHL Plus with Full Text. The functionality is much the same, but the appearance of the screens, and some of the terminology, is different.

In the Advanced Search screen, which is the default, you need to use the Map Term to Subject Heading tick box. Enter your topic/concept/idea in the search box, tick the box for Map Term to Subject Heading, and click on Search.

Let's use "community nursing" as an example. If you map the term "community nursing" to subject headings, you get a match for Community Health Nursing, as shown on this screen:

Clearly, "community nursing" matches to the MeSH term Community Health Nursing.



If you tick the box for Community Health Nursing, and click on Continue, you can select from the list of subheadings. You can select all the subheadings, or make a selection and combine them with AND or OR. Helpfully, you can see how many articles there are with each heading > subheading. Click on Continue to search for articles.


If, back at the list of mapped subject headings, you click on the subject heading itself, you are taken into the tree view of the subject headings - that is, the subject heading hierarchy. This can be a help because you can see broader terms and narrower terms, and you might choose to use these instead. Here, the broader term is Specialities, Nursing, and the narrower terms are Home Health Nursing, and Parish Nursing.

At this screen, you can proceed to search for one or a combination of subject headings.

You can also:

  • tick the Explode box (this is the first column of tick-boxes) to select, and search for, not only that subject heading but also any narrower terms that appear beneath it in the hierarchy. This is a way of broadening your search. The plus sign against a subject heading indicates that there are narrower terms. In the screen-shot below, the subject heading for Community Health Nursing has been exploded to show all the narrower terms.
  • tick the Focus box (this is the second column of tick-boxes) to search only for articles where that subject heading appears as a Major Subject Heading. This is a way of narrowing your search to return articles where that topic is the main focus.


For more assistance with this functionality, have a look at the Ovid help screens, or go to YouTube and do a search for ...
ovid medline mesh ... There are a surprising number of YouTube videos available!
For example, try Ovid MEDLINE - Advanced Search, from the University of Alberta Libraries. It demonstrates a slightly out-of-date Ovid interface, but nevertheless covers this aspect of searching MEDLINE quite well. It also show you how to use Search History to combine separate subject searches.

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